ACS Alarms has been installing CCTV systems throughout Teesside since 2002, most of the early installations were at industrial sites and shops, that needed to actively collect evidence of theft or vandalism. CCTV equipment and installation costs were relatively high at the time, cameras needed to be hardwired to both a power supply and the recorder/monitors, which could require extensive cabling.
Cameras were very industrial looking even menacing, as they rotated to observe their environment. This in itself wasn’t a bad thing, as it provided a visual deterrent to criminals, but it wasn’t popular with the law-abiding public who felt ‘Big Brother’ was watching.
15 years on and the public are a lot more comfortable with being ‘on-camera’, whether this is a result of social media (and the ease everyone seems to have with ‘sharing’ their lives) or the industry’s move to ‘friendlier’ dome-shaped camera designs.
CCTV camera designs
Despite the development of the dome camera, the traditional bullet or box camera shape remains in production, probably due to their more imposing appearance and visibility. We generally get requests for this type of camera for industrial locations as part of a multi-camera installation, they can be more susceptible to attack so we tend to install them in higher less accessible or protected locations. The size of the camera can allow for longer lenses which can give CCTV operators greater PTZ control (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) and they often come complete with infra-red illumination for night vision.
Dome CCTV cameras are the most common design we install, they work well in almost any environment for both domestic and commercial applications. There are a number of variations on the dome camera design, including; antivandal, open-faced, internal and external mounting and PTZ cameras.
Which dome camera to choose?
Choosing the right dome camera depends on where and when the camera is to be used. Cameras with a complete dome are discreet and potential thieves can’t tell which direction they are pointing in. Open-faced dome cameras were developed to reduce the reflections which some dome cameras experience when operating infra-red in low light. Most metal bodied dome cameras are categorised as anti-vandal and there are some plastic bodied dome cameras which are lighter making them suitable for suspended ceilings. PTZ dome cameras are more expensive as they feature motors allowing them to pan, tilt and zoom, this additional cost is usually unnecessary unless you have a CCTV operator controlling the cameras. We are seeing the introduction of PTZ cameras which can detect and track moving objects automatically. The advantage of this, at this stage in their development, is probably outweighed by their price. Installing multiple fixed cameras for the same cost would be a better option.
Dome cameras could be classed as covert cameras, as their dome prevents you from seeing where they are actually pointing. If you want to install truly covert CCTV cameras, we can install either miniature cameras which are hard to spot, or cameras which are disguised as another object, such as a smoke alarm or PIR sensor. The need for this type of camera is to provide surveillance when criminal activity is suspected within the workplace or where criminals are able to avoid visible cameras.
Networking your CCTV
The advent of the internet and GSM networks has probably provided the greatest boost to home and business CCTV since it’s launch. Wireless networking your CCTV equipment quite literally allows you to take your video feed anywhere you can access an internet connection and it can be viewed on your phone, tablet, laptop or even your smart TV. Installation is also a lot easier and quicker, although there are some occasions when we would suggest a wired connection between your cameras and recorder, (where walls or obstacles can affect the performance of your wifi signal). We can still provide you with a video stream from a wired installation by connecting your hard disc recorder to your isp.
Resolution and image quality
The resolution of video we capture from your CCTV is equal to anything you would expect to see on your home TV. Manufacturers are constantly trying to win over new customers by claiming higher and higher resolutions and unfortunately image quality isn’t just down to the number of pixels a device can capture and display. As suppliers and installers of CCTV equipment we understand why buyers would be seduced by these numbers, but to get the right equipment for your application takes a little more understanding, and that’s why professional installers like ACS Alarms can get better results than most DIY installs. The quality of your CCTV footage is dependent on the width of the image you are capturing and the distance between your camera and the target image. This will give you a pixel density based on PPM or pixels per meter. You can then look at the type of lens you want to use and whether you would benefit from optical or digital zooming? If that’s not getting complicated enough for you, then you might want to consider a varifocal lens.
Low light and night vision cameras
Achieving a good quality image at night can be achieved by artificially lighting the area with floodlights, this in itself can deter criminals but it can also become an annoyance if falsely triggered by animals or weather. An infra-red camera uses an infra-red light source (which is invisible to humans), but which will allow your camera to capture images in blackout conditions. If you are looking for CCTV that will work well in low light levels you’ve probably been reading about ‘Low Lux levels’, this is the ability for the camera to absorb even the smallest amount of ambient light in order to create an enhanced image. Some manufacturers will also claim their camera will operate at a zero lux levels which is a bit naughty, since this isn’t possible without an infra-red light source, which is a different technology. Low lux numbers are similar to claims about resolution, and whilst it might seem like an easy way to demonstrate which camera is best, in reality, there are too many other factors to take into consideration for the results to back up manufacturers claims. At ACS Alarms we are comparing the quality of images from various makes and models of CCTV equipment daily, and we regularly come into contact with systems new to the market or existing installs during routine maintenance and repair work. We stand by our belief; the best way to judge the quality of a camera is to see it working.
Impact of CCTV on crime
There are lots of surveys, research programmes and statistical evidence to prove that CCTV both reduces crime and assists in convictions. Regional media companies regularly display compilations of video evidence on their websites and social media pages and whilst this content also includes video captured by smartphones it is clear that video evidence is commonplace in today’s society. The negativity associated with being watched, which was apparent during the launch of CCTV seems to of disappeared. I remember thinking if someone had CCTV cameras on their house it must be in a ‘rough area’, yet the pleasantly shaped dome cameras seem to sit quite comfortably now amongst the satellite dishes and tech of today’s homes.
Are you thinking of installing CCTV cameras
Whilst we would love you to pick up the phone and give us a call to talk about installing CCTV in your home or business, there are some people who will want to do the research for themselves so please bear in mind some of the points we have raised in this article.
- Don’t rely on what the manufacturer tells you! 4k, high-resolution cameras that have low lux levels aren’t necessarily the best cameras on the market.
- Talk to friends and family who have CCTV, ask them what they think about theirs, and ask if you can see some footage.
- Buying a CCTV system that does everything can sometimes be a waste of money PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras sound fun but do you really need one, or would you be better off buying more fixed cameras?
- I haven’t talked about hard disks or recorders in this article, but make sure you buy a recorder with ample capacity. Remember the higher resolution cameras will create much larger files and fill up your recorder much quicker.
- Think carefully about where you should install your cameras and at what height.